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Fang Lijun 《Chen Jiagang》

There have always been some castoffs, a scrap of pager, a piece of rag, a plastic bad, a spent battery, a worn out shoe, a waste tooth brush and an old package… 

We often encounter the trash, which is the result of bumping and the improper sealing of the trash car. Sometimes, a whole village or a living quarter is full of excrement.  

Sometimes, the scene of the garbage is grandiose. In the mid 90s, I went to the remote mountain area behind Badachu in the west of Beijing. Sporadic villages scattered the valley, and most villagers had moved out, leaving the old, young, sick and disabled home. Once in a while some of them were staying along the road watching us. The whole valley was turned into a garbage dump, and was filled with garbage which had reached to the top of the mountain, creating a huge platform. We could image the large orchards of apple trees along the roads or at the slopes lush and blossoming in the past, but then the branches of the trees were decorated with white, yellow, pink, red and other colorful things, like a sea of flowers at the first sight. But taking a close look at it, they were actually wasted plastic bags flowing with the wind.

 

I once drove past Panzhihua, a steel city in Sichuan Province. The scene was almost the same: the slags had nearly filled such a vast valley, the height of the slages reached the top of the mountains formed an immense waste platform several floors high above the living place along the Changjiang River. It was incredible that it was the result of human activity, and the scale was horrifying.

There are many cities behind the Third Line in the west mountainous areas of Sichuan and Guizhou provinces. These cities had their prime times during the period of war preparation. But now, these cities built with great efforts and huge costs have lost the reasons for their existence. They are just like the deliberately designed packages and bags discarded to the dumping ground, and the plastic flowers in that valley.

Chen Jiagang, with the photographing technique of classic painting, has pleasantly recorded the cities, towns, factories, structures and the industrial wastes which are being forgotten; has recorded the futile “human” work; and the sorrowful waste—the creator of these wastes: the “human” itself. 

A picture of a structure like a workers’ dormitory building which is common everywhere: along the national roads, and similar to the guest houses of that time. But when you take a close look at it, something strange reveals: the doors are gone, windows are gone, even the cement lintels are gone; and take a closer look, the picture of the structure taken in an upward angle shows only a wall, with the sky floating through the empty windows on the second and the third floors.

All the things with value have been taken away.

But it actually a building; we must restore it with our experience, and will inevitably enter the given history during the restoration process.

Henceforth, we, originally thought that we were appreciating the classic landscape picture, have now been taken to a given track, the once valuable work of human beings has been debased to a small number of raw materials, and the value of life has been lowered to the garbage.

The dregs of the Chinese traditional medicine are physically the medicine itself, with only the useful ingredients are decocted.

Maybe the garbage was originally originally a sweet and crispy apple, only the nutrition was sucked up…just like the fate of those garbage everywhere beside us, on the street and in the dumping ground.

In innumerous times, we saw the images, pictures and text materials showing the splendid scenes of people seeing the ambitions youth to the poverty stricken places or places where they are most needed. But our memory is limited, we can not follow up the development of those glorious stories thereafter. Those people and stories seemed to evaporate.

Chen Jiagang helped us complete these old stories. Maybe, what he wanted to narrate was light and romantic stories? Or maybe, he felt that the straightforward method was not cruel enough.

Those who lived: some torpid, some nonchalant, and some please; but anyhow, they all understood that they had become the castoffs. Some manual laborers with burly muscles and sturdy expression worked steadfastly, they did all what they could, like that burly man, hoping to get some taste from the sugar cane dregs which had been sucked by others.

Maybe, Chen Jiagang felt too suffocated, or he wanted to bring some hope the visitors, or just for contrast, he arranged some young, pretty and fashionable girls in some the photographs. These girls are not rare in cities, but when they are in his pictures, they will create a bizarre feeling. Just as the burly man, he was surrounded by fresh and juicy sugar canes, but he seemed not to have noticed them, but still spared no efforts to chew the cane dregs discarded by others—that was his fate—he used to be a builder, but now has been casted off. He was boxed up by his own creations, so he had to chew the things which had no taste however he chewed. He was a castoff, and had to find nutrition in the gargage.

The game repeats forever; the body looks like it was before, but without value any more. The sound of gongs and drums as well as flowers are gone. Even sorrow does not go along with it. If without the accidental shooting, they would not exist at all.

中文 / English